PepsiCo redefines what is “good for you”

As consumers turn their attention to real sugar, organic and non-GMO, PepsiCo is taking it upon itself to redefine what exactly is ‘good for you’. PepsiCo has three groups of snacks and beverages; the ‘good for you’, the ‘better for you’ and the ‘fun for you’. The meanings of these are stated as follows; ‘the good for you’ includes nutritious products that include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, seeds and key nutrients; the ‘better for you’ includes snacks baked with lower fat content, and beverages with fewer or zero calories and less added sugar; and the ‘fun for you’ includes Pepsi, Doritos and Lay’s Classic. However, a look at the nutrition facts from a can of Pepsi Max Zero Calorie raises questions about its categorisation in the ‘better for you’ portfolio. Given that ingredients are always listed in descending order of weight, aspartame is worryingly close to the top of the list. Consumption of aspartame that results in its metabolism to methanol has been shown clearly to result in neurotoxicity, as well the carcinogenic potential. Despite the longterm protestations to the contrary from Big Food regarding the adverse effects of aspartame, PepsiCo has just announced its decision to pull it out of all their products given the safety risks. However, Coco Cola will continue.

Pesticides linked to poor sperm quality

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that men who consumed high levels of pesticide residues had a 49 percent lower sperm count and a 32 percent lower percentage of normally-formed sperm than men who consumed minimal amounts of pesticide residues. The men studied were between 18 and 55 years of age and visited a fertility center between 2007 and 2012 as part of the "Environment and Reproductive Health" (EARTH) study. None had undergone a vasectomy and all were part of a couple planning to use their own eggs and sperm for fertility treatments. The men filled out questionnaires on their food habits, including the quantity of fruits and vegetables they consumed on a regular basis. They were divided into groups and compared for who ate the most produce high in pesticide residue (1.5 servings or more per day) to those who ate the least (less than half a serving a day). They found the men who consumed more high-pesticide produce had an average total sperm count of 86 million sperm per ejaculate, compared to 171 million for men with the lowest pesticide consumption.

Vitamins and bad science

Following our article last week on old studies being used to slate vitamins, Jerome Burne has described the research used as “lazy and irrelevant”.  He believes the attacks “belong in the realm of political point scoring rather than being part of any genuine scientific attempt to assess the benefits and risks of vitamins,” and criticizes Professor Tim Byers for ignoring “the details of the research he relies on as well as research that doesn’t support his charge”. He also draws attention in his article to another warning that was released on the same day as the warning from Prof Tim Byers, and yet was completely ignored. That warning was that the number of adults in a region of Scotland getting more than five drugs had doubled over the past fifteen years to 20% and that the number getting more than ten drugs had tripled to nearly 6%. He concludes that this multiple drug use (polypharmacy) is the inevitable result of a system that relies almost exclusively on drugs to deal with the epidemic of chronic diseases and is clearly far more dangerous than anything caused by vitamins. He believes that what would play a valuable part in a professional program of preventative medicine are supplements, but implementing this would require major changes in the way medicine is practised.

Dr Oz: “public shaming and bullying” is not the way

A group of doctors recently sent a letter to a Columbia University dean calling for Dr Mehmet Oz's dismissal from the university's medical school faculty. The 10 doctors said Oz was using his show to promote "quack treatments." Dr Oz is vice chairman and professor of surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons as well as being a cardiothoracic surgeon. Talking on "The Dr. Oz Show" recently, Columbia have issued a statement saying it would support Oz's academic right to freedom of expression. One thing mentioned was his apparent opposition to the genetic modification of food, however Dr Oz says that he instead supports GMO labelling. He believes the timing of this letter has to do with a bill in Congress that would negate the rights of states to require the labelling of GMO foods and instead institute a national program that would allow for, but not mandate, the labelling. On the segment he stresses that he gives practitioners of alternative medicine a platform because he thinks their methods can act as complementary to traditional medicine.

Organic milk takes another bashing in the media

Recent reports in the media claim that expectant mums who switch to organic milk may be putting their child at risk of being deficient in iodine. Iodine is important for brain development and is given to cattle as a supplement, although not cattle used for organic milk production. Milk certified as organic contains about a third less iodine than conventionally-produced milk or "ultra-high temperature" (UHT)-processed long-life milk. Lead scientist Professor Ian Givens, from the University of Reading, said, "People are increasingly buying organic and UHT milk for perceived health benefits or convenience. But our research shows that this trend could have serious implications for public health.” Up to 70% of teenage girls across the UK are now iodine deficient, probably as a result of a decline in milk consumption, said the scientists, whose findings are reported in the journal Food Chemistry. Professor Jean Golding, from the University of Bristol, commented that, “Pregnant women should be aware, however, that organic milk appears to have lower levels of iodine in the UK”. However, milk is not typically considered one of the richest sources of iodine given that seaweeds, Himalayan sea salt, green leafy vegetables and cranberries contain far greater levels per gram. 

EC authorises GM as many others reject it

As the EU Commission authorised 19 genetically engineered plants for import in just one day, Hungary takes a bold stand and destroys 1000 acres of maize found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds. The Hungarians aren’t the only ones taking a stand, famous musician, Neil Young, has a new album coming out on June 16 called The Monsanto Years which is about the multinational chemical giant that has been a leader in the development of genetically modified seeds and pesticides. And it doesn’t stop there – Chipotle Mexican Grill now only prepare food that is free of genetically engineered ingredients. Steve Ells, founder and co-chief executive, commented, “Just because food is served fast doesn’t mean it has to be made with cheap raw ingredients, highly processed with preservatives and fillers and stabilizers and artificial colors and flavors.” Experts from several EU Member States have criticised the deficiencies in EU risk assessment carried out by the by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) but these were ignored by the EU Commission in its decision making process. Instead, it is suggesting new regulations that would allow each Member State to ban the import of genetically engineered plants. They would not, however, be allowed to use arguments such as health risks to justify their decision. Consequently, it would be almost impossible to defend such national bans against legal challenges.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate…

Following our article about the Australian government announcing the ‘No jab, no play, no pay’ regime, its interesting to read that the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, refused to vaccinate his daughters with the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. In 2006 he was quoted as saying, “I won’t be rushing out to get my daughters vaccinated, maybe that’s because I’m a cruel, callow, callous, heartless bastard but, look, I won’t be.” And perhaps he was right in being skeptical about the HPV vaccine as a recent study found that women who receive the vaccine may be more likely to be infected with certain high-risk strains of the virus than women who do not get the vaccine.